Babies cry. Some babies cry a little, some babies cry a lot and some babies are in the middle. A new baby’s cry makes parents want to do something to help comfort baby and stop the crying.
Crying is Normal
The newborn baby has an immature nervous system. After months of floating in a dark, warm, uterus, baby is born. Suddenly, baby sees bright light, hears loud noises, notices strong smells and begins to taste. Baby also has to breathe and learn to eat.
The Facts About Crying
- Most babies cry often: 80% to 90% of babies have crying spells lasting 20 to 60 minutes or longer.
- Most babies cry more at night, sometimes for an hour or longer.
- Most babies have at least one fussy period each day, often in the evening.
- Research shows that when you carry babies a lot, they cry less.
- Most babies cry more at 6 to 8 weeks than at birth. Then, they start to cry less.
The Cycle of Normal Crying
There is a cycle of crying that:
- Increases after about 2 weeks of age.
- Peaks at about 2 months.
- Continues until the baby is 4 or 5 months old.
When Baby Does Not Stop Crying
A baby’s constant crying is very stressful. Sometimes you cannot find a reason why baby is crying, and nothing that you do helps. You may get very frustrated with baby.
If you have tried everything, it is OK to put baby in the crib and walk away. This is the best thing you can do for you and baby.
- Take a break, calm down and then try again.
- Call family, friends or anyone who can help.
- Whatever you do, do not shake your baby.
Pick the baby up!
- You cannot spoil a newborn.
- Holding your baby will mean less crying and more calm time.
Tips to Help You and Baby Cope
Here are some ways of making baby and parents more comfortable:
- Hold your baby skin to skin as much as possible.
- Feed baby and check for a wet or dirty diaper.
- Use good feeding techniques. Baby will swallow less air but be sure to burp well after feeds.
- Lay baby on his or her tummy on your lap.
- Lay baby down with a rolled towel, small pillow or baby hot water bottle (filled with warm water) under his or her tummy. Gently rub baby’s back.
- Sitting in a baby seat or car seat puts pressure on baby’s tummy and may be uncomfortable. Holding baby upright or flat tends to feel better.
- Some babies settle riding in the car. If baby falls asleep, bring baby inside still in the car seat. He or she can sleep in it for a while.
- Putting the car seat (and baby) on top of the dryer while it is running can also be helpful. You must stay with baby.
- Slings and baby carriers are good if baby only settles when held.
- Some babies like movement. Use the stroller or a sling in the house if you cannot get outside.
- Try a warm bath: baby may stretch, relax and kick arms and legs.
- Music can be helpful. Sing to him or her, or play some quiet music.
- Make sure baby is not too hot or too cold.
- Baby may be bored and need some playtime. Read, play, talk, sing and hold baby every day.
- Keep yourself as calm as possible. Get away from baby regularly and relax. Take whatever help you can from family and friends.
- Experiment and see which tips work for you and baby. Do not be discouraged. A method that does not work one day may work the next.
Before Giving Up, Try These:
- Hold baby so he or she is lying on his or her side. Support the head.
- Make shushing sounds as loud as the baby’s cry. It reminds baby of the sound of the uterus.
- Move gently side to side or back and forth. The movement is calming.
- Let baby suck. Babies love to suck.
Some babies cry much more than average, possibly all day and most of the night. They cry hard and often look like they are in pain. Your doctor will almost always find nothing wrong with baby. Baby will not be comforted by any of these suggestions. Parents begin to feel angry, helpless and incompetent.
Causes of Extreme Crying
- Baby’s nervous system is not fully developed. Some babies cannot deal with much stimulation after they are born.
- Baby’s digestive system is immature.
- Baby may swallow air with feeds, causing bowels to fill with gas.
- Babies with parents who smoke are more likely to be extreme criers.
- Babies who receive formula are more likely to be extreme criers.
- Rarely, baby may have a specific problem, such as:
- Allergy to the protein in cow’s milk (found in most formulas).
- Reflux, which is stomach contents coming up into the esophagus (the tube from the throat to the stomach).
- Speak to a health-care professional to get a proper diagnosis before experimenting with different formulas.
When You Cannot Comfort Baby
Remember that some babies cry just a little and others a lot. Some babies are extreme criers. They cry loudly and for a long time.
Crying is supposed to make you feel upset. The baby who does not calm can make you feel more upset, frustrated and angry. How can one little baby cause so much distress?
If you have tried everything suggested and more, put baby in his or her bed. Walk away and give yourself
5 to 10 minutes to calm down. Then, go back and start again.
Ask for help from your partner, friend or family.
What About Colic?
- For many years, we have said that babies who cry loud and hard and appear to be in pain have colic.
- No cause was ever found, and babies were perfectly healthy.
- Experts now agree that colic is not a disease or disorder. It is extreme crying.
- Colic usually resolves by four months.
Shaken Baby Syndrome or Abusive Head Trauma
- Shaken Baby Syndrome is an injury that happens when a person shakes a baby.
- Shaking can damage a baby’s brain.
- If a person shakes a baby in a moment of anger, the injuries can be severe. They can cause problems for the baby’s whole life.
- Shaking can cause permanent disabilities such as blindness or paralysis.
- Shaking can even cause death.
- Shaking is one of the most severe forms of child abuse.
- Be sure to educate anyone who cares for your baby about the dangers of shaking.
Canadian Paediatric Society (online), 2016
Karp, H. (online) 2016
Period of Purple Crying (online), 2016